2018… the year that defied the laws of time and space

It seems like a whole year since we last posted in this blog! Okay, it has only been a few months, but we now understand when you delve deep into your laboratory work and are engrossed in your PhD time passes you by and before you know it the sticky note reminding you to write a new blog post loses tack and ends up under your desk, and that talk you presented, amazing conference you attended or new experimental method you mastered which you meant to share with the world has long been forgotten. However, in true HumBug style we rise from the piles of papers and tip boxes to give and overview of the year that was 2018!

We started the year ready and raring to go, fresh from Christmas holidays and the first thing to probe into was a PhD students most favourite past time… DATA ANALYSIS!
Streams of code were repeatedly tapped into R to analyse the Bifodobacterium case study for Libby and the chorioamnionitis placental samples for Rochelle, aiming to generate impressive graphical representations of the raw data. Although a challenge, trudging through gritted teeth, the rewards from running your own data analysis and generating the outcomes at the end are more than worth it.

Along with data, laboratory work was a high priority for the HumBugs – with Rochelle optimising, validating and performing qPCR on placental membrane DNA samples to understand how much bacteria is on the membranes. But this only after generating a purified plasmid to act as a standard for comparison to samples. Anybody who has performed this task knows that it is not the most forgiving methodology and the slightest niggle can heavily impact results, leading to borderline OCD! For Libby the laboratory work focusses on optimising a UPLC method for analysis of breast and stool milk to investigate HMO and short chain fatty acids related to necrotising enterocolitis (NEC).

The HumBugs love a good conference, and although we focus on the freebies in most of these posts, we do attend for the scientific focus along with the networking aspect. Conferences have once again been a staple this year, with Cassy, Libby and Rochelle all presenting posters at the Microbiology Society in Birmingham in April (Link here!), also Libby and Rochelle presenting an oral contribution at NEPG at Newcastle in September- where Rochelle won runner up for oral presentations. Further conferences included oral presentations at MMEG conference in Swansea just last month and also internal postgraduate and school conferences (Link here!).  Libby also attended SIGNEC 2018 at Chelsea Football club; an amazing conference where clinicians, scientists and parents network to improve outcomes for preterm infants with NEC.

We cannot forget that in September 2018 we welcomed a new scientist to the group – we say that figuratively rather than literally as we understand that for health and safety reasons – a now three-month-old would not be able to partake in the laboratory experiments. But what we mean, is that the new arrival will hopefully be a buddying scientist when her time comes. Congrats!

If that wasn’t enough, along the way, both Libby and Rochelle successfully passed their second-year annual review in December and have now progressed into their third and final year as PhD students (not daunting at all!) So here is to 2019 which will hopefully bring continued success for the HumBugs! Key concepts to look forward to in 2019 include publications (watch this space!) and the completion of both Libby and Rochelle’s PhDs… now, if we go AWOL for the next year you know our excuse as we will be buried in thesis drafts.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year,